Books: Freeze-Out

THE BIGGEST GAME IN TOWN

by A. Alvarez

Houghton Mifflin; 186 pages; $13.95

Poker playing is an utterly useless and gratifyingly antisocial activity, frequently mistaken for gambling. It is, of course, a game of skill, but not many people understand the nature of this skill, and fewer have seen it in action at the level of world-class play. High-stakes poker is secretive; it is illegal in most places, and embarrassing both to losers, whose associates tend to fret, and to winners, who dread the taxman. Thus the English writer and poker player A. Alvarez (author of another examination of self-destruction, The Savage God:...

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